The importance of listening and understanding

By: James Hogan ~Guest Writer~

The day after the election, I was told by one of my classmates that I should be ashamed for the way I voted.

“People like you are why our world is going to get worse” is a real comment that another Xavier student made to me on Tuesday, Nov. 9. This person didn’t even ask me who I voted for: they just assumed that I voted a certain way based on what they know of me. They disregarded the reasons for my beliefs, how I came to think the way I do and why I might be interested in a system that is different from what they want. To them, it is of no relevance that I did not vote for President Trump. All that mattered was that my beliefs are different and should be bashed.

1After having this discussion, I did what any average person would do. I went and relayed the story to my roommates. We laughed about the entire situation, and then it quickly devolved into mocking about how silly and close-minded and moronic this person is for destroying my beliefs without understanding them. Then I realized that I was doing exactly what they did. I was disregarding someone’s beliefs and opinions without understanding them because they are different than my own. I was taking the stance that this person’s beliefs are foolish and the way that they act is nonsense, but I have no clue how they formed those positions or what personal experiences led this person to hold the virtues and ideals that they do.

I am writing this piece while visiting one of my lifelong best friends. This is a friend I have had since I was seven years old. In the almost 15 years we have known each other, a lot has changed in the world, and an incredible amount of life has washed over the both of us. Most notably, in that time we both discovered our political identities and came to understand what we believe should be the role of government.

In my friend’s opinion, the government should do more for the people and have more control over how we interact and communicate, silence those with dangerous or violent rhetoric. In essence, a government works to control the way we communicate and interact to ensure a “fair” world for us all.

On the other hand, I think that the government should get out of the way, let people live their lives and form communities and sort out the ideologies that are dangerous on their own rather than giving that role to a government. In short, my friend has become a Democratic Socialist, and I have become a Libertarian.

During my visit, we constantly discussed the free market, the government’s role in journalism and information sharing and how government’s role should change as the world itself changes. The discussions almost entirely centered on ideas that are fundamentally, diametrically opposed to one another. But that’s OK. And that is the point.

James Hogan is a senior Philosophy, Politics, and the Public major and guest writer for the Newswire from Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

We are digging deep into these beliefs to understand each other’s viewpoints and positions. We are using this discourse to enlighten one another to a different ideology. What these discussions are doing is teaching both of us to listen to other sides. This is what discourse looks like. This is a discussion, an ongoing open talk about our beliefs and the world in which we live.

We are opening up to one another about the basis of our ideals and our views. That’s what discourse should be. I am not shutting him out for thinking otherwise, and he is allowing me to speak my mind. We are both working to find some kind of common ground in thoughts and ideals, or at the very least we want to understand what makes the other person feel the way they do.

By ignoring any other ideas, we refuse to acknowledge that anyone else can give a valid contribution to a topic. By shutting out our classmates, we fail to look critically at our own beliefs and challenge those ideologies. We need to open up and accept other ideas as a way of understanding new perspectives. At the very least, we have to accept the validity of each other’s thoughts. We can disagree with them and find them flawed, but we must at the very least understand them.